Posts Tagged ‘anarchist’

What I think of in the bath

Moments where the heights of luxury hit me; I live like this!

With all the history I’ve read, and all the fantastic future histories, I’m dizzied that at this particular moment, I can summon enough just-so-temperatured, perfumed, clean-enough-to-drink water to cover my body, and have the leisure to lie in it, with food and a book at hand, with music playing, with a wealth of culture a snap of my fingers away, in this decadent privacy and peace, free from fear, secure in control, able to move around as I please, absentmindedly rubbing green tea and fennel lotion into my hair. I am a magician – Can this be real? How did this happen? Can it last? Might this, as I have thought many times before, be the pinnacle of physical experience of my life? How is it that I have all this? That we have all this?

A moment where I don’t take it for granted, where I acknowledge this ordinary moment of a daily hot bath is an amazing luxury I am lucky to experience at all.

coffee and book in jacuzzi

How very odd – Roman emperors or Trimalchio really could not have it any better – How smug we are and how tiny a blip in history – and how sure we are that it is deserved, permanent, this hot bath – I think the same when I eat a sandwich in the back yard – It is what we die for really – for someone’s right to this peaceful back yard or miracle bathtub. Part liberty, part theft. What splendor. No wonder we hardly know what to do with ourselves, emperors lacking any good citizen-ish Mirror for Princes. A funny picture as I consider Roman cities: thunk, the public park and fountain is plunked down in our utopian sim city grid and the people stop their riots.

Often I think of myself as an anarchist, but I am politically naive and lazy enough to have never examined or defined my political beliefs. The most glaring inner contradiction has always seemed to be my love of, and belief in, virtuous and stable institutions and laws, which I somehow cherish along with a strong tendency to veer off in order to disrupt institutions that aren’t or that I think aren’t. I was struck by this bit of tonight’s book; it’s near the end of Godfather of the Kremlin, after long exposure of corruption, embezzling, capital flight, murder and greed:

Private property or free markets alone do not guarantee a high level of civilization. Even the most impoverished countries have private property and free markets. What they lack is a healthy state and a healthy society. Today these are the two essential preconditions for civilization.
There are several salient characteristics defining a healthy state: a good legal code and the means to enforce it; the equality of all citizens before the law and the state; a sound financial basis allowing for the provision of such public goods as national defense, law enforcement, transportation, education, medical care, and pensions; an efficient and effective government apparatus. A healthy state is uncorrupted by wealthy individuals, powerful businessmen, or special-interest groups; it is an honest broker for all the conflicting interests of society. Finally, a healthy state protects the weak from predation by the strong.

This calls out to the bits of my middle-class and civic-minded soul that believe in such things. The root of the non-contradiction is that I believe it could be achieved by anarchic means. Maybe. Given some ideal state of beginning, or anarchic-alientech-ex-machina, or that proper nucleation that crystallizes and spreads that we like to imagine could be just around the corner.

Riot Grrl Nostalgia show

There was a good crowd at the Center for Sex & Culture last night last week for the riot grrl SFinX reading. Here’s my notes!

Carol Queen read an intro for Gina de Vries.

Gina wrote Curve mag’s “Hey Baby” column. In 97 she was called “jarringly precocious” by Time Magazine.
Carol (interrupting herself): I did not know that. That is AWESOME! When I was jarringly precocious Time magazine never noticed! There was a photo… gina what were you wearing in it?
Gina: Ladies Sewing Circle and Terrorist Society
Carol: How old were you?
Gina: 14
*everyone cracks up*
*more intro*

Gina: There will be cupcakes at intermission. chocolate bergamot… Homemade! I made them! *audience cheers*

Gina read a memoir piece in 2 parts. The first part was about when she was 14 and bought her leopard print mini skirt. “It was the sluttiest thing i’d ever bought.”

Her deep friendship with a very serious queer femme riot grrl, Lila. We talked about veganism, bands, racism, and pornography. (They had class differences. Lila and a lot of the other girls were richer.) Making mix tapes and trading them. Gina read “The Persistent Desire”. Traded zines with every girl I met and hundreds of others through the mail. Starstruck at meeting Kate Bornstein. The overwhelming joy of finally being taken seriously as a queer girl.

“Dykes and fags! Working together! Biphobia sucks! Transgender revolution! Fuck shit UP!” *cheers*
We were so earnest…

Melissa Gira reading from draft of Girl Out of Order … i liked best the bit about how she would work until she passed out, and the process of taking photos of cartoons on tv with a disposable camera, getting them developed at the drugstore, carefully scanning them with a sort of squeegee scanner into the huge, beige, computer at her friend’s parents’ house, then printing it out, cutting it up into bits, writing on it, and pasting it with rubber cement into a zine.

The dangers of the postal service. Sending naked photos of herself. “Parents, lock up your stamps!”

A bunch about sex. Playing out age play with her boyfriend. Pretending to be a virgin (in one of the best asides of the night Melissa added, “Of course it had only been having sex for 4 months”)

Celeste Chan – Riot Grrl was before my time but i was inspired by it, read Sassy, checked Bikini Kill albums out from the library, watched the Yo Yo gang, moved to Olympia in 2000, I imagined it all fantastic and full of fierce eyed women, like it was dyke march every day….*cheers from audience* Instead, it was like getting too close to a dream best friend. You see their flaws. Huggy Bear, Bratmobile, Bikini Kill, thrifting… loved the ethos of diy and you can do anything. It was one of the very few subcultures dealing with violence against women, homophobia, fatphobia and the masculinist nature of punk culture. Addressing competition and jealousy that women are socialized into. It was great. Bring back riot grrrl!!!!!

Zuleikha Mahmoud. Femme shark. ***FEMME SHARKS!!!!!**** yell from audience. Omar and the lesbians band. Going on tour with Mangos with Chili. *cheers*

I, like Celeste, was a little too young. Was in hard core rural Pennsylvania. It didn’t quite make it there. That was the only thing that helped me imagine another life. When I was a little kid I was a strong feminist and I didn’t have a word for it. Then I started going to the library and the librarians had a really intense stockpile of feminist books.

So now I’m writing a book about slutty muslim girls. To reflect myself and the girls I love. A novel. I could read that or, *cries of “BOTH!!!” from audience* AND, I was going to read a piece about the first pride i went to, 2005 in new york.

“Jess is on her way over… she was going to bring her bass to teach me how to play. “I’ll teach you some fingering” and then we laughed but she said she really earnestly wanted to start a band with me. I hope to god she also wants to fuck me. I ran around my apartment hiding all the mainstream shit. The beauty mags and nikes. (phone call with friend) What’s up bachaim. (Farsi for “baby, dear friend”) (explanation of girl coming over) “Text me if you lose your lesbian virginity.” “Inshallah”. God, I wanted her, as much as I wanted shoes or drugs, as much as I wanted to move out when I lived with my parents. (she comes over) “Take your shoes off this is an asian house.” Jess eats a banana. DO THEY KISS OR WHAT OMG I CAN’T WAIT you will have to read the book when Zuleikha finishes it. (Note my subtle implication that she WILL FINISH IT DAMMIT… because it rocks)
2nd story from Zuleikha. First pride march. The night before. Homophobe violence. racism. a fight. I knew the parade was corporate but wasn’t prepared to have Macy’s celebrating my gayness or whatever!
Emotional moment of a parent filming their kid in the parade proudly…

(break) (cupcakes!) A bunch of us stand around and bond on how back then we learned how to do menstrual extraction and were all ready to start smuggling RU-486.

Then me

I talked about my zines and how I started identifying with riot grrl stuff, and showed a folder of a jillion letters, April – June 94, from all over the country. Then read some bits of the Slut Manifesto, which got a lot of laughs. (omg, i must find a better home for that manifesto.) I edited out a lot of the long ranty bits, warning everyone that during edits I’d say “Rant rant rant”. I had not timed it and have no idea how long I read, am hoping not too long. I enjoyed reading it so much. It was tempting to edit the hell out of it and also go back in time and argue with myself. Still I felt a sudden wave of affection for my fierce little self of years ago. Carol asked me if I had written in in irony or not. In retrospect, sure, there was plenty of irony in there but I also meant everything.

This was the first reading I’ve done since disabled again where I felt like I had a reasonable amount of energy and verve. Now, I can pull it off even when I feel like shit and have to fake it, but it feels so great to get a little of my mojo back. whew! and to feel connected with people. I don’t think I’ve ever read to, how should i put this, such the right target audience for anything i’ve read out loud. (though the capitol punishment story at years-ago-SFinX was similar!) how nice was that!!! and my riot grrl stuff does not really get integrated with the other bits of my life, very often. (though i do feel like blogging and even working with blogher are my continuation of all that.)

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarsinha – growing up in (amherst?) – ad in the back of MRR – “I love janes addiction, i cut myself, write me” and getting a ton of letters. riot grrl wrote to her and had gone through MRR to write to every girl who had an ad. Leah was touched… parents didn’t let her out of the house… (next town over might as well have been on the moon.) Moved to NY – then was like “oh, crap, i’m really poor” also tough being mixed race punk in ny… met unsuitable guy way older – blew him off – “some guy who looked like freddy kruger at the bookstore wanted to fuck me” crazy guys breathing on you and trying line after line… 13th street squat getting busted. mystical hippie earth firsters trying to hold down a chapter in midtown manhattan where there pretty much wasn’t an ecosystem left anywhere… She was 19… admired an older 24 yr old woman who was so tough and had been living in squats for 10 years but who would not talk with her… Cops, a tank, assault rifles, it felt like us or them, 500 bodies, no matter how much we blieved in non-violent resistence… dragged off one by one… The guy was a brilliant storyteller… the way people are who have been on the street or in prison since they were kids… he was bi and assumed she was… (I forget what funny queer punk tshirt he had on but it made me laugh) took off their shirts on wall street… fucking in another squat with the guy… not really quite feeling it as sexual … though enjoyable… “like the promise of some day having a body” (I loved that description of sex)

I forget who it was (Leah?) saying something hilarious about west coast queer punk girls being all tra la about it but NYC punk girls being all like FUCK YOU I HATE WOMEN.

Nomy Lamm – old spoken word stuff from 93 – but here instead is stuff that i didn’t read in public at the time. “the ain’t” was my band and this was our song. sing with me… (we sing the bass line) … easy target… piece about living with her best friend who she was in love with. Their messy house and the junk food and fruit flies! Stuff about jealousy, about punk scene hierarchies and how could we have this movement and still have that and so many things being about conforming or conventional attractiveness. (She and another woman whose name I did not catch but who played bass did a song – Nomy played the accordion)

A whole lot of us went to Chow afterwards. I was not sure if I was at the grownup table or the butch table. we talked about Steven’s anarchist anthropologist book and i forget what all else, some about the readings, i went over and talked a bit with everybody else… I think they were going to Rebel Girl at the Rickshaw Stop.

tonight hazelbroom and I were gossipping on IM about all this and we were just listing off 90s dykey zine people and telling funny stories. I told her how I wished I had met Stephanie Kulick who I traded zines with and then later saw Mark’s page about her and realized she was likely a major kindred spirit right down to her woman symbol necklace matching my woman symbol earring which I lost in the ballerina pie fight.

Working on bioweaponry dangerous for mental health

The NY Times on the poor suspects in the anthrax mailings whose lives were messed up by FBI harassment made me curious.

I can believe the FBI were jerks. But to blame these scientists’ death on the FBI seems unscientific. First we’d have to look at a control group of scientists working for the Dept of Defense on biological weapons and see how many of them commit suicide and drink themselves to death. Doesn’t it occur to anyone that these folks’ consciences might not be easy?

Salon, in Vital unresolved anthrax questions and ABC News, links to Ivins’ letters to the editor over the years. His letters pushed some of my hot buttons – he sounds like a fundamentalist Christian, the sort of person who sits around arguing if “homosexuals” are “born gay” and writes letters to the editor about how the laws of the United States should “reflect the Gospels”. But then he denounces racism and sexism on the radio, and tries to make an ethical argument about abortion and assisted suicide, saying that religious (or ethical) beliefs lead sometimes to good, like the abolishment of slavery, so that we shouldn’t dismiss anti-abortion activists as trying to impose their religion on others.

His brother thinks he’s a fanatic… “However, Tom Ivins, who last spoke to his brother in 1985, said, “It makes sense … he considered himself like a god”. Hmmm. He was minorly obsessed with a sorority, KKG. He was medicated for episodes of paranoia, way before 2001. this article calls him “a man obsessed with a sorority that he first encountered while an undergraduate, asserting in an e-mail message that the women’s group was waging a “fatwah” against him.”

My knee jerk reaction is actually to figure he is a religious fanatic and anti-Islam and quite likely to crack and go postal. But, I realize that is my own assumptions about a) people who would work for the government making biological weapons b) extreme right wing religious people who want their religion to set and control the law. How can that possibly be a good combination – religious fervor, psychotic paranoia, and secret powerful military research? You might as well hire a bunch of mad-eyed bomb-throwing anarchist revolutionaries (like me) to guard your anthrax vaccine. What the hell, government people? Unless you are actually Robert Koch, I don’t want you messing around with anthrax at all. But if you really must hire someone how about sticking to people who are relatively sane?

Hostile Takeover trilogy, book two

Somewhere along the line in Partisan, I noted particular moments of the female protagonists being pretty decent, but there were some flaws. Tetsami the plucky hacker chick spoke up to Dom the tortured wealthy genius cyborg hero to demand that he treat her as an equal partner in their military operation / corporate espionage. I loved it that she *noticed he was dissing her*. In other words she was savvy enough in the world of “Games Mother Never Taught You” to notice subtleties of power politics. On the down side, she didn’t have much to negotiate with other than “You owe it to me for some nebulous reason we cannot quite articulate but that we are both aware of” and that reason is romantic love or sexual tension or both, which I thought utterly sucked as a motivator in anarchist politics. Or, maybe the story’s trying to get across that anarchist politics gets a sort of humanizing rescue from patriarchal romantic love. It wasn’t very convincing politically or romantically though it fit fine in a pulp genre tale. Their “romance” goes like this:

OMG we’re in Danger! Quick, be clever and reckless! Wait, I hate you! Damn you! You bastard! Taxes and damnation!! (anarchist planet cussing) But I only was reckless because you’d really hate me if you knew who I really was! (WANGST MOMENT ALONE WITH MIRRORS CONTEMPLATING CYBORGIAN NATURE) No, I really hate you because you ignored my agency and hid information from me and hogged all the power and don’t communicate or say what you really think, you fucker! That’s why I can’t resist you, James Bond Spock Daddy! *KISS* *something blows up again* *tragic separation*

Oooookay! Sort of works, sort of annoying!

Back to why Tetsami is awesome. She thinks and fights. Fine, she thinks damn near every thought about how she wants some cyborg man-love. But, she also plots, is good at tactics, saves her wounded soldiers, hacks, is brave, gets her own dark secret and angstiness over her genetically modified heritage and cyber-brain-implant, etc. And so far (FINGERS CROSSED) she has not been raped, stripped of all her thoughts and powers and skills, held hostage and rescued while being completely helpless, put into a coma, or mind-wiped a-la-Vernor-Vinge. How extremely unusual for a military sf book. I appreciate that.

Kathy Shane, the ex-Marine and one of the tanks of our Adventuring Party (where Tetsami is the thief or rogue) has some good moments as well. She does try to off herself in a blaze of guilty soldierly glory but instead gets some cyber legs and spends most of book 2 on a dungeon crawl (Swiniarski, I can spot your rpg roots a MILE away) chasing her former soldier and escaped prisoner Houghton whose magical sudden art history background leads her through a 2 day spelunking expedition to the freaking heart of the planet miles below sea level to the ALIEN ARTIFACT CACHE. She didn’t do much else but it resolved her angst neatly, she had some nice banter with Random Walk, the remote drone of the AI of the Adventurers. Again, notably not raped. She gets a love interest too; from moment 1 of meeting Ivor (Tetsami’s adopted father) they have a soldierly little undercurrent of unconscious swoony destiny. They have not yet leaped into bed together but Destiny calls. So that’s nice too actually, while romantic subplots make me throw up a little in my mouth and I hate them as motivating or defining characteristics of female characters, it’s also nice that Shane doesn’t get de-sexed or doesn’t get to have the potential of getting laid just because she’s the tank of the party.

The story has continued moving along. It’s exciting! It’s pulpy! There’s a giant war and a bunch of local star system politics becomes clearer with 4 main arms of the Confederacy vying for power with Bakunin the anarchist planet as the prize. Nanotech! Giant laaaasers! Armored giant transformer-like vehicle porn lovingly described!

Oh I must also note the naming of one of the Vehicles. There is a funny car-buying scene where Tetsami realizes the awesome RV she’s about to buy is Loved by its owner to an extreme. He fetishizes it and caresses its shiny curves and has named it The Lady. Further evidence that Bakunin is not a post-patriarchy anarchy. (And how can that be… I ask in all seriousness.) Tetsami uses that knowledge very well in negotiating with the vehicle’s owner. So she ends up with “The Lady” which is basically the best RV ever with giant battle weapons and an autodoc and mining equipment and everything you could wish on your futuristic wish fulfillment survivalist pave-the-earth mobile living capsule. I took the naming and fetishizing as evidence of post-patriarchy while Zond-7 thought it meant sort of high status or respect of women ie “Lady” but I pointed out that still conflated property with women and vice versa and owning a high status (or named to be) woman/vehicle was a way to confer status (and not to the owned party) and also the trope of naming a slave or pet with a name like Duke or Cicero (which he was not aware of at all). Again a passage that would be illuminated by complete regendering. If it sounds hilarious regendered, it’s probably not post patriarchy.

The moment where Dom is looking at himself in a hundred reflections of reflections of himself in the polished walls of the obsidian cave would also be somewhat “off” if regendered. It might make a nice literary experiment.

Thoughts at the beginning of The Hostile Takeover trilogy

A hundred pages in to The Hostile Takeover trilogy I have the basic idea of what’s going on. Cast of characters:

* Dmitri who is super super old and lives on Mars and has lots of replacement organs.
* Ambrose is his cyberslave Jeeves. If you get robot body parts you are no longer human. Oh no!
* Klaus Dacham who is EEEEEVIL and whose mom Helen died. Head of TEC which stands for uhhhh The Evil CIA, or something. Sucks the blood of kittens.
* Captain Kathy Shane, interstellar marine in the Confederacy. She’s tuff and has a cool punk haircut.
* Dominic Magnus which is a pseudonym and who killed Helen and who is on Bakunin the anarchist planet. Used to be in TEC. Started GA&A megacorp. OMG has robot parts. Stares at self in mirror a lot. Gothy.
* Tetsami who is an industrial espionage superhacker and rides a flying motorbike on the anarchist planet. She has a cool sexy haircut.
* The mystery assassin on Mars. (There are hints in a couple of chapters to who it is and how/why.)
* The AI (s) who have their own mysterious motivations.
* We will not “spoil” things for you by pointing out that of these characters some of them might be BROTHERS OMG MAYBE EVEN TWINSIES!! Angstorama!

So far my main thoughts are,

The anarchist planet horrible paladin church with TV game show killings and ransoms are AWESOME and funny. There is a good bit of Tetsami and Dom discussing how the socialist anarchist atheists who founded Bakunin’s colony would be rolling in their graves at the Techno Paladins. The paladins run around in shiny cyber armor rescuing people and slaying criminals. Or they stun everyone and take them hostage to be on their holo tv game show where the audience phones in money to kill, ransom, or perhaps maim the rescued or the criminals. This is great – you can totally picture it happening on the anarchist planet.

I want to write funny bits where Dom is staring at himself in the mirror thinking of suicide because he’s half robot and stuff (as has done already several times in 100 pages and will clearly do again) and then some horribly funny over-gothy sex happens. Or his thoughts as he broodily contemplates his robot dick in the mirror in all its throbbing cyber glory. Slash with the *cough*brother*cough*! Or a scene where he shows his partner in crime his “hardware specifications”! Maybe it’s just me. I’m waiting to see if the author will actually go there himself to write a tacky robot sex scene. Why waste ink if it’s already in the book?

About the scene where Dom is being attacked by a gang of thugs. The writer takes the time to set up all the thugs as separate people with different haircuts and outfits and little personalities like roleplaying game NPCs and then they all get SHOT DEAD in half a page. It has a timeless trashy-beautiful quality about it like the scene in a war movie where the guys in the submarine or the trenches all have cardboard personalities set up so that you can appreciate the pathos of their deaths. But here, more so that you can feel you are in Pit Fighter kicking the ass of Slightly Futuristic Stereotype #5 with an eyepatch, and remember him as a different death than Slightly Futuristic Stereotype #6 with the mohawk. In Hostile Takeover so far, this happens a lot, part of what makes it satisifyingly trashy.

One more thing. Like most science fiction books that think out a politically and culturally different far distant future there is not a very good gender analysis. On the anarchist planet in theory everyone has these giant fucking laser cannons and motorbikes, or whatever, and so why do we still have some kind of fundamental patriarchy such that Tetsami thinks instantly of her main value as sex work? What the hell? Gender essentialism I guess. If you have a society where an industrial espionage black ops hacking expert who has survived against all odds by being incredibly tough and having a giant motorbike and blaster bazooka things or whatever she has in her arsenal, why would your main selling point to ransom yourself be to fuck the guy who ransoms you? (Minor spoiler: She doesn’t – it is just her big plan. Don’t worry.) Why wouldn’t you be like OH HAI I HAZ MAD SKILLZ AND CAN FIX YOUR COMPUTERZ. Why assume it would be a man who ransoms her and that anyone (male or female) would care to pay that much to fuck her? If that’s what instantly springs to her mind it has all sorts of weird implications that don’t seem to really hold water – it would mean women are terrifically oppressed and disempowered in Bakunin’s anarchist system (for some strange reason) and that also somehow, there aren’t enough prostitutes (which there would be if women were that disempowered) so men are so desperate to fuck this one hacker chick with a hot haircut that they would pay a king’s ransom to do so. Also, it’s idiotic that she is made to say it sort of bravely like it would be difficult and the other dude was shocked and impressed that she might just square her jaw and go “Because I’d promise to fuck him” like she should squeal at the thought with maiden delicacy and horror and he admired her pragmatism. Dude…. just NOT. All you have to do is regender the scene in your mind, and the politics and culture don’t make any sense.

Zond-7 has reassured me that no one gets raped and the situation of women in the book is balanced and not what one might expect though there is some denial of agency which is then later rectified. We’ll see! I noticed in the Paladin game show the audience votes to fry a captive who was caught “raping a teenage girl” so I suspect rape culture will pervade this sf novel – so disappointing – you can imagine interstellar travel, yet you think that patriarchy is permanent?

I give a huge amount of credit for the entertaining setup. I love the horrible yet still attractive anarchist planet! The anarchists are sort of the good guys! That part’s great so far.

The crazy artist hippie neurotic anarchist insomniac gene

All weekend and yesterday prepped for class and graded and made handouts. Halfway to San Jose I realized I had forgotten the big folder with all that stuff! So had to improv an hour and a half of teaching. I think that turned out fine, but it was stressful and made me feel bad about myself for doing such a dumbass thing.

Lunch with my uncle. Got stuff for Moomin’s party on Friday. I thought I would be late to pick him up from the bad traffic (and bad judgement) but I made it on time! Only just! After calling 3 people and the school!

Spent about 1.5 hours at school talking with teachers and just hanging out. Somewhat annoyed at opacity of school process. Very annoyed at mysterious crap around “The Test” and about general comments and atmosphere of “he should ‘really’ be in 1st grade by his age… developmentally… social… maturity.. etc.” Oh whatever! What the fuck ever! Plus the attitude that education is painful and they must be saved and protected from it, lest they be traumatized by having their spelling corrected or being taught multiplication concept before Piaget, dead French guy that he is, says it’s okay for their inchoate mathiness to possibly handle. Again, what the fuck ever! Annoyed. Anti intellectual hippies! Moomin’s essays cute as hell, but stilted from dumb teaching of 5 point essay structure (too undeveloped to learn times tables, yet writing a 5 point structured paragraph over, and over, and over, and over…). Bah. His report card was lovely and I was especially happy to know that he participates more and checks out less. His teachers *are* fabulously nice, and sweet, and love him, and give lots of the kids individual attention and thought, which they can do because it’s K-2 and they have the same kids for several years. So I appreciate all that part and their work. I think there is a basic philosophical disconnect… like the “let children just be *children*” attitude… well if they’re GEEKY CHILDREN then they need lots of intellectual stimulation! Or, rather than thinking a person is reading “over” their grade level and they don’t know all the words so it’s not developmentally appropriate, realize that they’re learning the words that way, from context and repeated exposure!

At home, I had a million emails to read and answer. I melted down a bit and cried in bed and bled all over and had cramps, the bad first day kind. Entire uterus fell out of me. Blood at the point where it was difficult to handle, and in fact i had been in the tiny miniature elementary school bathroom trying to deal with it… omfg. Out of control. Anyway. I had sciatica on top of that. In fact right now the cramps are much better and volume of insane flow is down to normal, but my whole leg is fucked up and my foot is alternately burning, hurting, and tingling…. peripheral neuropathy or sciatica or whatever you want to call it… I don’t even care what to call it. It’s so random! Sciatica hasn’t happened for months and months. Please let it be gone tomorrow. Oh well! Must endure! Blog, you’re where I whine about it so as not to whine to actual people in realtime!

Despite that I whined to Minnie over chat and called xyzzy and whined and got his counterwhine, which made me feel better since god, at least I’m not THAT whiny (as he pointed out with excellent doublethink that persuaded me that listening to him whine was super entertaining and useful… you see his twisted mind and powers of persuasion?) and then I laid in bed with a heating pad feeling doomed some more. I can’t see xyzzy for days and then maybe on the weekend for some unspecified amt of time and then not for several weeks b/c of travel, which was a depressing thought and then the meta thought that it was depressing or affected me made me feel anxious. At some point I got up and played with Moomin and fed him a snack, and went out to dig in the garden figuring that mild physical activity would improve my mood and help be a distraction from pain. Also to get me the fuck off my computer for a bit. This worked. I dug up the loathsome stinkhorn red net things that were all over the front yard, and de-spiderwebbed and weeded the secret clubhouse. Then I started hurting again, but Nukie had come over and he and Moomin need some supervision when together, and lots of feeding because Nukie is always super hungry even if he has just had dinner. Got to see Peanut a bit too and fed her tortellini. The Acrobat and Pilot got me tacos from the great taco stand down the street and I’m forever grateful! I sat with Moomin to do homework and went over a bunch of his school papers with him and praised him lots. He sang “Red River Valley” with all the verses and choruses, from the back of a Magic Treehouse book & a made-up tune.

Right when I was coming out of total nastiness and despair, Caraja called me just to see how I was doing as we hadn’t talked in a few days, which was really sweet and made me feel way better. We gossiped and she told me a story that was perturbing and yet also impressive. (Detail impossible to blog.) Literary gossip.

Rook came home and took all the right kinds of care of Moomin. They sang songs. They ate ice cream. A bath happened. I did some worky thinking and other stuff, which was interesting and I felt a combination of concern for the issues and excitement that the ideas are exciting and there is so much to learn and think about. Talked with cd and felt slightly dumb and then realized (again) that I’m talking not just to smart people but people who have been thinking about this same thing for several years, and I’m just coming into it from a related but oblique direction, and the fact that I can have a sensible and interesting conversation at all with someone like that means I’m respectably intelligent and my usefulness or future usefulness is apparent.

As Rook washed the dishes I felt a huge surge of gratitude that he was taking up my slack. It has been really rough on me in every way to go from 0 jobs (with school up till recently, and lots of blogging, but still, different) to 2 totally new jobs. It would be so much rougher if he were the sort of person who did not step up to do things. Or if I were fighting with him over housework or bossing him and reminding and nagging. Instead, not at all. He washes dishes, I do laundry. We’ve both been shopping. I think of him romantically in the same breath as the Marge Piercy To Be of Use poem and also think happily to myself that he is a good co-oper (both high compliments…) as well as a feminist man who does not just talk the talk. It is a bigger deal than you might think unless you’ve been in a housewife/stay at home mom role.

Hot tubbed. Aaaaaaah. Life sweet again.

My uncle came home and we had a fun talk that I found strangely heartening. He told a funny story about how when I was 3 and he was 5, he was reading a book and I was reading it next to him and he realized that on every page I was watching him and waiting for when he’d be done. I bet this is true, but probably we were a bit older. I remember reading things like Uncle Wiggly with him, and then all his Alistair McLean books. Anyway, we both have the crazy artist hippie neurotic anarchist insomniac gene, which skipped my dad and grandfather. He showed me his system of musical transcription of chord progressions which helps him be such an efficient teacher and composer and which got him in weird .. not trouble but, people kind of messing with him from big music companies and some “chilling effects” action going on. He listens to a song, transcribes it, and can teach it instantly and he has thousands of songs carefully written into paper notebooks with numbered pages and indexing. So with his fabulous system, even beginning students come for a lesson, want to something new which they bring in on a CD or tape, and walk out half an hour later able to play 2 new songs. If anyone knows of a studio apartment in the Inner Sunset he’s looking for one, and if you want an awesome guitar teacher then let me know and I’ll refer you! He just took over another guy’s teaching business and so has 30 students, but room for more. Anyway, our conversation was fun and we have some basic attitudes in common. I’m glad he’s out of the land of R*msfeld’s vacation home and the various depressing things about living there. He also said the insomnia was killing him and was the root of his alcohol problems (also killing him). Sounds familiar.

It is amazingly soothing to blog all this and get it out of my head.

& so to bed!

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those keep off the grass signs

Vanity searching led me Rachel Clarke’s post about group behavior and tagging. From my conversation all night tonight with Grace about visibility, popularity, what it means, value, and importance… I keep coming back to a central concept about the construction of value.  (Which I came to in thinking about literary movements.) When a group of people pay attention to each other visibly, they become important. This doesn’t seem that it’s necessarily so, but it is, because other people notice it. They might react with hostility, or denigration, dismissal, praise, or reward – but all those reactions mean importance.
Somehow this is tying in to the tiny bit of info I have observed from Dodgeball this weekend; and talking about how people seemed weirdly aware of Woolfcamp and we realized suddenly it might have been from it being a popular flickr tag for a couple of days because there were 30 of us with cameras uploading our photos all at once; and tying into what Rachel said about tagging as a group behavior and that middle area between private choosing of tags and hierarchical imposition of allowed tags.  Group  norms become established and people choose an alignment. Right on! Self-organizing… I’m a big fan of that concept. Like the way that U. of Chicago waited to build paths across the quads until they saw where the grass wore out – the natural patterns of how people chose to walk. That’s not just smart – it’s RIGHT, in a way that building top-down paths and then making "keep off the grass" signs, laws and penalties, is not right.  In other words… I’m an anarchist, duh – and believe in the power of anarchic, collective decision making processes.

Another random thought about tagging and that group-aligning that takes place:

I certainly noticed that sxsw was a very popular tag this weekend on Technorati and flickr, but I didn’t tag that way because: 

-it made more sense to me to tag my photos "sxswi"- the first thing that occurred to me, that music and film people might not care about the geeks

– and then "swsw2006" because Mary Hodder said that was it, she decided, and, well, that was cool and everything else she says makes sense to me, so I figure she thought about it and has her reasons

– being associated with what is popular seems bad to me. Like, so what if it is a popular tag – if it isn’t the right reason, I wouldn’t want to bring people to "me" or whatever. i.e. am not popularity-seeking in that way. Bad information is unethical. Diluted information becomes meaningless, and that makes it bad. People need good information! Okay, not in this case, it’s not "need" to want to see some dorky snapshots… but in other cases, as I saw with the hurricane disaster relief, it IS need.

– then I tagged things (when I remembered…) with "sxswi sunday" "sxswi monday" for my own use in organizing my memory of a day – something only important to me because my memory is bad and I value my sentience. Steven Schwartz called me a documentarian and I think of that often… It had never occurred to me before but it’s true.  I’m an anarchic archivist. I would like to be a better one! I usually think of the real archivists as people like Quilty and Rook, who make beautiful taxonomies. Perhaps reframing the way I do things… That’s part of why tagging got me so excited- it held out the possibility that my amassing of information might be more useful to me. 


the patriarchy was smashed long ago, obviously

It’s so much fun to read the prefaces to all these feminist anthologies. I love the one to The World Split Open.  They don’t pull any punches, they’re are full of oomph! They skip from formality to being all bad-ass and 70s.

“It cannot be a bad thing to experience each woman poet individually, but it is an interesting and truthful enterprise to begin to think of them politically and in relation to one another.

Men have written of ‘women’s art’ with their noses wrinkled, as though it had a bad smell, like menstruation. The term implies second-classness, pettiness, frivolity.”

Bwahahaha!  Oh but that’s all behind us, right? Men don’t do that anymore!  

A lot of geek girls might think about times they’ve heard guys talk about women’s stuff this way. (And think twice before you agree with them and rush to identify yourself as not that kind of girl, trust me it’s not worth it for the pat on the head you will receive.)     Just the other day a certain geek dude who shall remain nameless sniffed at WoolfCamp right to my face, and said the original jam/camp organizing thing was now obviously “diluted past recognition”. Now it’s worthless.  Now we’ve all contaminated it with our dippiness.  Now it’s all girly. We’re not all hAxXor studly programmers or something. We’re not real geeks. Oh whatever! You got your patriarchy in my anarchist organizing! My sparkly pink nail polish and knitting and the purposeful mentioning of cleaning up lunch as part of the geek program — in your FACE.   Anyway, it was snotty because it’s not like hardcore programming dudes own the idea of the “unconference”… an idea that should spread through academia, which sadly needs it as it’s full of amazingly intelligent people with hobbles on.  Christ. Anyway it’s enough to make me want to learn to knit, just to be ornery.

and so to Monday

So you can see my weekend and Rook’s and Moomin’s was way too active. Too much running around, not enough slacking. Too much schedule!

Monday morning I worked like a dog on Tiptree stuff and got out all the books and looked through all the posts, as I said… really trying to distill my own judgements as well as compile everyone else’s. I kept saying "Oh I’m almost done" to Rook but then realizing an hour later I was still almost done!  In the middle, an awesome chat w/ Debbie, very helpful…

Then Moomin’s new friend, Hamster, came over. His dad dropped him off.  Within 5 minutes they had dumped out the hampers full of stuffed animals – they wore the hampers over their heads like giant beekeeper suits – as forcefields of invisibility – there was TOO much cuteness. There’s a lot of feeling around here of being inside a calvin-and-hobbes cartoon, right down to the transmogrifiers.  We picked lemons from the tree.  Rook dug up the 2 rosebushes for me – I worked hard on the planting and dirt-moving and wood chip shovelling, so hard I’m sore today, but I figure it is healthy exercise. Possibly I strained my knee overmuch. But as I said already, I’m being careful of it today and it should be fine.

Then eliz. and sophie came over and Hamster’s dad came back to hang out. We played liar’s dice, and king of the beasts, and the Pilot and baby Peanut came over, and then Hamster’s dad and I talked like fury about collaborative narrative, unicursal/multicursal labyrinths, impact geology, and new theories of the precambrian extinctions.  If you do this while 5 children are jumping on the couch next to you, screaming, clad only in scarves and cheetah outfits, you’re really tough. I tried to pretend I was in a loud, glittering, bohemian nightclub, yelling over the music and ignoring the exotic dancers.  Hamster’s dad comes from a v. different view of multiplayer games and gaming in general, and he talked interestingly about how you have to give narrative cues in realtime, to direct people away from the inevitable edges of the world.  I talked about how you have to let people break the world, but make the consequences of it logical, because people are GOING to break the world. Like, let them drive off the road but it trashes your vehicle, or has some other consequence, or let them shoot through the wall if they have huge guns or grenades because otherwise, how disappointing, because part of the pleasure of a game is testing its limits…and the limits should make SENSE instead of being lazy "you can’t do that"  or "an inexplicable force prevents you from going past the Wall." 

Off somewhat guiltily to SXSW meetup in San Francisco, guiltily b/c of leaving Rook with Moomin, Sophie, and Eliz, all a bit exhausted and chaotic…  and because also I knew I had already gone past my own physical limits … But off to the thing anyway.  I got to town early – someties it takes an hour, sometimes 35 minutes, so unpredictable – and ended up walking into the comic book /toy store on Market and 3rd-ish.  I noticed the Daughters of Dragon reprint right away and sat there reading it and getting steamed up about how stupid it was…  I know it’s reprinted in irony quotes, but REALLY.  it’s not like comics are all that different now. oh the annoying panty shots.  fucking jerks!  you know, i enjoy flashing my underwear, but I do it on purpose. or if they did it with a sense of humor and anyone ever commented on it, or it was on purpose to distract the enemy, or was crucial to their character development or the plot, or they had a tampon string or some razor burn hanging out, that would be acceptable and funny… Also, male superheros should wax their leg hair to fit into the tight suits more neatly without snagging, and there should be a lot of jokes about how they can’t pee very conveniently in their superhero unitards and have to wriggle out of them, pee, and then talc themselves up in order to wriggle back in. with many expanded panels of the contortions of wriggling back into the suit.

The meetup was at the Minna gallery on 2nd st.   I made 3 name stickers for myself, and K. suggested that I put my super-secret identity (not this one) on my butt. I showed her my underwear, of course.  Because it is crucial to my character development, and one of my superpowers.   Elisa and Jory and Lisa were there and, awesome, I had asked them if even at this late date I could be on a panel somewhere b/c I suddenly am going to the conf. and I love, love, love, to be on panels and talk in public.

If I could just confess for a moment that I had to nerve myself to write to them and I felt like a total fool doing it. I am superconfident that I have plenty to say, and am always entertaining and give people ideas and something to think about when I do talk on panels or speak up in that kind of context, but I also felt that it was vile and would make me look bad, pushy, etc. to step up and say "how about me?"  And that even if they said yes I would be somehow undeserving, or a scammer, or unqualified or not geeky enough despite my fairly solid geek credentials, I worked in tech for years, wired whole buildings and planned their wiring, grubbed in server closets, made kick-ass databases, wrote and coded and imped on huge MUDs, was a programmer etc though I’m not working in tech NOW and was never (and never will be) an actual superstar hacker or anything. Still, I think I make a reasonably good technopundit and kicker-around-of-stimulating-ideas. To some degree I feel like a geek groupie, a hanger-on, not a genuine player in the game, and I see how there is this geek/hipster thing happening and i look like the annoying hipster end of it, the soft fluffy bloggity diary-keeping flirty underwear-showing candy of it, the housewife dilettante mommyblogger.  And I just want to point out how much that feeling is bogus, and I know it, despite all that being actually kind of true; and actually I fucking kick ass, and am Well-Rounded.  Anyway I’ll have a fun time being the radical feminist on the panel.

Speaking of which Elisa and I were talking about ( I talked her ear off…) how it is the norm for women to reveal self doubt or vulnerability to each other and that it is a sign of strength and we actually pity the men who are always carefully posturing to each other and the world.  There is a way in which revealing doubts and vulnerabilites can be the social mechanism of the Pack, where everyone exposes their throat and says "I’m not putting myself in front – don’t attack me and I won’t attack you" which can be negative at times (and you better believe I’ve felt the negativity) because then when you boast on yourself it is perceived as hostile and attracts aggression from other women. But the positive side of it is that you establish trust, and you make other people feel comfortable and more confident. This dynamic played out for me ALL the time when I was working in tech.  For example my tech support male colleagues nicely tried to explain to me never to let the User see me not knowing something — so their "helping" would go like this:

User: I’m having this problem with my computer that Blah blah blah.
Guy tech: Hmmm. <i>strokes beard</i> I’ll take a look at that later when I have time.   
(Then he goes and looks it up.)
(Time passes. User can’t do any work. Hours later…)
Guy tech: Fix fix fix.  There, all fixed!

or better yet:

User: My Internet is broken. And when I move the mouse, THIS happens. But not every time. Could it be because I’m wearing a metal bracelet and magnetism is affecting my own brain? Also, how do I do a mail merge in Word?
Guy tech:  I’ll have to take your computer and give it a good overhaul.
*days pass*
Guy tech: Here ya go, all fixed!  Here, move over and I’ll do your mail merge. *fiddle fiddle* Ta da!

So here’s me in that situation:

User:  I want to do this thing, but the feebleblitzer keeps freezing.
Me: Okay, I’m not sure why it’s doing that.  Let’s go look that up on alta vista and here is how you might look up a tech problem. And here is the help screen. Oh look, we figured it out. 
User: Oh, so you didn’t just automatically know?
Me: Yup. I have to look things up and figure it out and try different stuff. You’re not dumb for not knowing right away.
User: OMG OMG and how do I do XYZ?
Me: You drive the mouse and we’ll figure that out and I’ll walk you through it, and I’ll leave you with this piece of paper with step by step instructions of how to do it so you won’t forget.
User: I am SO glad they hired a woman. No offense, I mean… but you don’t… you know…
Me:  I know.

Or I’d say, "I don”t know how to fix that, but I could either sit here and figure it out in front of you, or you could go away and come back, or I can come back when you’re at lunch, or I can take your computer away for 2 days…"  giving them the choice.

Now of course if you are a tech support person you know I was all wrong and the techie has to be God Himself and infallible or people lose their trust in your ability and skill.  And that did happen to me among the (male and powerful) users and among my fellow geeks. but over time my strategy was better for everyone. And I got plenty of respect, except when I had bosses who were complete bogus assholes, like in Irvine.   However, my girly-ass feministitude did NOT carry over into programmer-land however much it worked eventually in tech-supportia. Oh how I longed to work with extreme programming and anarchists etc. who understood honesty! Instead i had NO mentoring or support that wasn’t from my partner and it took me an entire year to figure out the depth of ignorance, fear, fakery and posturing that was my co-worker "programmers"… Oh man… it was bad!  They were wrongheaded and scared, and would do anything to hide what they didn’t know. And yet for a long time I doubted myself on those projects and finally I just did the whole project myself after demanding my own server farm and copy of the search engine spider and  index-building thingie to work with. No more saying plaintively in  meetings about "architecting"  … "But if we just added a crapload of sensible die statements and unravelled some of the spaghetti…"   hahahaah.. because doing that would have coded people out of a job, that’s why.  It took me so long to figure out the politics and the guy-dynamics!

Okay anyway back to sxsw meetup, it was fun as hell, I got a warm, chaste, sparkling kiss from the incomparable Min Jung, I hung out with blogher chicas, talked with Metagrrrl and saw her pictures of last year’s sxsw and of lions in Kenya, then had really great thai food across the street at OSHA, and got into an intense conversation with danah about diaries, pepys, william byrd, our own teenage diaries and early blogs, queer activism, how to flirt, the meaning of life, what it’s like to give birth, how we did too many drugs as teenagers, and how we like to make trouble, and how trouble is valuable, and how we’re old and wise and calm now in our lives which is much better than constantly being in trouble, and it was sort of a scary intense exercise in mutual narcissism, and then I gave her a ride home. 

unbearable treasure

My god… I’ve just found a key to great treasure. Many of the cuban women I’ve been translating, well, I only have a couple of their poems found randomly in very bad anthologies that I can’t trust… and yet I could tell they were cool. I jsut found a really great book that quotes huge chunks of their work and they are all I could hope for … radical feminists, extremely politicized, of course they’re all freaking suffragists and anarchists and communists and Davies (author of the book I’m delving into) makes it super clear that they were all connected to the political writing feminist (duh) who were all over the papers and radio and magazines… Hell, this is a great book! And the source book of all sources that I need desperately though it’s 90 bucks and i’d have to get it shipped from the D.R. … (dammit) is an anthology from 1926 by Felix Lizaso that isn’t even a “women’s” anthology but is general modernism and yet it HAS ALL THE CUBAN WOMEN in there. Hot damn! Thanks, Felix! You’re a doll!

I’m so excited… maybe Staffnord library will have that book and I can xerox it! But if not, I’m fuckign ordering it for 90 bucks !

and how I wish I had a complete edition of all emilia bernal’s work… Of course this doesn’t exist. But it SHOULD. She rocks! I’m also very excited about Maria Luisa Milanes, who I hadn’t known about at all, or maybe just the name, footnoted somewhere and on my long list of possibilities. She wrote a lot of fierce unhappy poems about hating patriarchy and then killed herself in like 1928 or something, alas, but… she makes it a political death. I mean she wrote a screaming sonnet about how she was killing herself explicitly in protest of patriarchy’s chains – like spartacus – because she couldn’t escape – and that it was a message to the morning, to the future, and back into all of history, who woudl understand her. “I was born for greater things/than to be a slave…” Ouch! You’re not supposed to cry in the library, but I always break that rule. If only she had run off with Emilia to New York. I wonder if she had children. (But then, Emilia had four, and left them.) I’m enjoying her poem about the sexy empty-headed statue of Narcissus that gazes forever into Blue without a thought in his head. I could explain this for a year, but the short version is, in latin american poetics for decades, blue and specifically the blue and white serene fountain/pool of the soul is the fountain of modernism and where inspiration comes from and the poet (the Swan) sails around calmly on this blue. Milanés yanks that right out from under the patriarchy by writing a short, sharp poem about this as a completely empty project – alas, she’s only a woman and can’t understand…